Sharron McPherson: Saving the World, One Social Enterprise at a Time

Former Investment Banker and Wall Street Attorney turned serial Social Impact Entrepreneur, Sharron McPherson’s entrepreneurial journey goes back to the mid ’90s when she started ISES, a successful non-profit organisation in New York City that helped local women from disadvantaged backgrounds start and run successful community based businesses.

Her next company, the Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative (WEDI) grew out of ISES when she moved to South Africa and was encouraged by women in the United States to launch something similar.

My passion remains community upliftment and investing in small and medium sized businesses has been my vehicle of choice for community transformation. It’s what led to my launching WEDI in 2007 in South Africa.

With a doctorate’s degree in Juris Prudence from Columbia University School of Law, Sharron presently teaches Project Finance at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. She also has a special certification in International and Comparative Law from the Parker School and a BA degree in economics.

Sharron defines working very hard and playing hard. When she is not scheming about how to save the world, her favorite thing to do is to lie in her hammock, wiggle her toes in the sun and watch cloud formations. She likes abseiling, driving fast cars, scuba diving reading about the global state of things.

Sharron McPherson_African Female Entrepreneur_cofoundHER

Which of your ventures did you submit for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and how would it change the world?
I applied to TEEP in connection with my latest social impact venture which is called Common Ground Productions, and it’s aim is to produce interactive, groundbreaking media that showcases the capacity of young African innovators to solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges.

By focusing on African innovation and solutions to global problems, my idea will not only help to change the perception of Africa, but will also bring together innovators, investors, supporters and collaborators in a unique way that will enable young African social entrepreneurs to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges. So, I’m changing the world by providing a platform for young Africans to change the world.

I’ve spent most of my life investing in others. Finally, someone saw fit to invest in me.

Why did you decide to start Common Grounds Production?
In 2007, when I started The Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative (WEDI), I noticed how many young people, particularly young women, contacted me for support for their amazing ideas. Often times, we were not positioned to help them because our target was growth SMEs in certain sectors. I began thinking about how I could help these young innovators get noticed by the right people so they could gain support for their ideas. Common Ground Productions was conceived as the vehicle to make this  happen through a reality TV show I call “BigIdeas.Africa”.

How did you feel when you heard you had been selected as a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur?
I was actually speechless. I’d followed the results and didn’t see my name and thought, “Alas, I tried. Now back to the drawing board”. But then I got the email announcing I was included in the winners. I then got down on my knees (literally) and thanked God. I’ve spent most of my life investing in others. Finally, someone saw fit to invest in me.

What was the most difficult part about applying for TEEP?
It was actually changing my own mindset. My ancestors are Nigerian, but I was born in America. I’ve spent the last 17 years living in South Africa. I’m also older than most applicants, I’m sure (my children are out of University). Friends encouraged me to apply because of the synergies between TEEP and my media concept. But I thought I’d never make it because I believed I didn’t “fit” the profile.

Why did you decide to come back to Africa and why did you choose to settle in South Africa, instead of Nigeria where your ancestors are from?
In 2001, I was both hit by a speeding car in New York City and almost lost my life on September 11, 2001. After almost dying in the World Trade Center attack, I got the message and decided it was time to return to Africa. I feel safer on the continent.

I had developed a base in South Africa when I worked here as a researcher at the Constitutional Court back in 1998. I’ve also worked closely over the years with some pretty amazing former freedom fighters in South Africa who are my friends and who are really instrumental in my coming back to Africa in the first place.

What has been your number one business challenge and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My number one business challenge has been finding an experienced media partner to help me produce a pilot. It’s an innovative, interactive media concept that is unlike the average TV show. TEEP not only gives me exposure that helps to attract the right partners, but the process itself forces you to focus and to recommit everyday to making your dream come true. It provides a virtual incubator and networks that include other entrepreneurs that are going through the same changes. So, in addition to everything else it provides, it helps to reduce the loneliness factor that plagues visionaries. You feel that TEEP fellows really do understand you. It’s great!

103_SharronMcPherson_AfricanFemaleEntrepreneur

What do you expect your business will achieve with the TEEP benefits?
Big Ideas.Africa will win an Emmy Award and will become a global concept that supports young innovators from around the world to launch the big social impact ideas.

What is your vision for WEDI and Common Grounds Production?
Whether it’s WEDI, teaching project finance, BigIdeas.Africa or advising on sustainable city projects, everything I do is about making life better. I use my formidable gifts to serve others in ways that are fun for me, commercially viable and that have maximum positive social impact. With hope, I’m contributing to creating a better world by investing in high impact visionaries.

How do you balance your multiple responsibilities as the founder of two companies and teaching in a university? How do you stay organised?
Balance is an illusion. No matter how much I seek it, it’s always just over the horizon. I cope by eating right, praying (A LOT), meditating regularly and exercising six days per week. My priority in the morning is take care of myself. THEN, I look at who and what else requires my attention. That way, I make sure there’s always a healthy dose of me to go around. I stay organised by sticking to what is important to my primary goals in life and I’ve learned to cut out a lot of the distractions. Saying “No” to invitations to get involved with ventures that take you off track is an acquired skill. I’ve learned it. Focus, focus, focus and PERSIST.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
My recipe for success if based on a version of “P Soup” that I read many years ago in book called Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant. The recipe is: Pray, Plan, Proceed, Pursue AND PERSIST! Starting with prayer is key. Clarity in vision and purpose is a necessary component of resilience. I get clear as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. I trust my Creator for provision that matches the vision. And then I just keep doing what I’m led to do until God delivers on His promises. Faith is really the key to my success. You simply cannot fail using this recipe for success!

________________________
We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Advertisements

Janine Roberts: Using Packaging Technology to Empower People

After nine years in a nursing career, Janine Roberts got interested in the packaging industry and chose to take her interest further by getting a diploma in packaging technology. This led her to work with Fair Packers, an outsource food packing company, in 2009, where she was the Managing Director.

Janine’s entrepreneurship journey really began in 2010 when she started her first business, Zimele Packing Solutions, a consulting business in packaging and product development. Unfortunately, that did not work out as planned, so four years after, she closed up shop. Not one to be defeated by failure, Janine gave entrepreneurship another try in 2014 with Ukama Holdings, a social enterprise started with the aim of creating or identifying micro enterprises that act as a supply chain for various services.

Janine is passionate about reducing unemployment in South Africa and helping to ease the daily struggles of children in certain townships, which she does by ploughing some of her time into the Ukama Community Foundation. She loves reading and spending her free time with her family at home or out camping.

Ukama_Janine

Why did you start Ukama Holdings and what does the company do?
Ukama Holdings was started to address the needs of unemployment in South Africa, as well as cater to the need of small, medium and large companies needing to outsource their production and packing. In South Africa, we have huge unemployment rates. I sincerely feel that solving the unemployment problem lies in alleviating poverty and that this can be done with our unique business model.

Ukama provides contract packaging for customers in a food grade facility using solely micro enterprises as our supply chain. We identify, train, set up, and provide work and premises for micro-enterprises in our business. These micro-enterprises serve as the supply chain who pack products for our customers. Each micro-enterprise owner employs up to five people. In this manner, we have created jobs for over 60 people already. We have over 20 customers who use our services for production and packing of food products, non-food products, sewing, crafts and labeling.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I felt that there was a gap in the market for a lot of the niche services we offered. I had over ten years’ experience in the packaging sector and I felt that we could offer an amazing service to clients.

How would Ukama Holdings change the world?
Our business model is unique and sustainable. Not only do we offer a valuable service to other businesses, but socially we are also empowering people and creating jobs. The model is easily scalable and repeatable and makes huge in-roads to massive unemployment problems in Africa. We also enable small businesses to get to market by packing their products for them in a fully accredited food facility. This is something that is expensive and unobtainable to many small businesses.

102_JanineRoberts

What is your biggest business challenge right now and how do you think the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme will help address it?
My most difficult challenge has been raising capital and getting finance in South Africa. I hope the programme will address this through the process of being able to apply for capital and through the new contacts that I will make. With the exposure, networking and funding we will receive, we’ll be able to take our business to a new level in our expansion project.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Being an entrepreneur takes amazing strength, courage and perseverance. Sometimes it seems that you will never get where you need to be! The thing that has kept me going is my faith, the knowledge that this is my life purpose, and that the journey is worth all the struggles I’ve had to endure. Never give up!

________________________
*To find out more about Ukama Holdings, visit their website and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

**We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Caroline Mtongolo: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle With Mushrooms

A Chemistry graduate from the University of Nairobi, Caroline Mtongolo is the co-founder of Zoi Investment Limited, a company focused on investing in the agribusiness industry in Kenya. With her cofoundher, Waithera Macharia, their aim is to make Zoi Investment a leader in the agribusiness industry in Kenya by providing profitability, quality and alternative products that will contribute towards enhancing living standards in communities.

Although Zoi Investment Limited is mainly involved in mushroom farming, they farm and grow cash crops such as onions, chilies, tomatoes and water melons. They also act as a distributor of agricultural produce by buying from farmers and reselling to both local and international markets.

carolzoi

Caroline is inspired by ‘Never having to do the same thing twice’  and she finds her balance by being deliberate, planning every move and scheduling tasks to make sure work is done on time; skills that come in handy for the Business Development Director of Zoi Investment. With all the hours she saves by working smart, she spends time exploring the culture of Nairobi, visiting new cafes, experiencing dining and attending events.

Tell us more about Zoi Investment and why you decided to go into mushroom farming.
Our company, Zoi Investment Limited, located in Nairobi, Kenya, deals with mushrooms production. We are currently producing oyster mushrooms and plan to start producing reishi mushrooms soon. We decided to delve into mushroom farming to address two needs that a modern person has: maintaining healthy weight and preventing lifestyle diseases such as obesity.

In fast paced modern environments, it is a great challenge for people, especially women, to access healthy foods hence the upsurge in lifestyle diseases. Zoi Investment prides itself with helping address this critical issue in our generation through our mushroom farm — mushrooms are a very nutritious crop and they have medicinal value.

Also, did you know that currently Kenya imports 150 tons of mushroom annually? This figure is expected to grow with the rise of the middle class in Kenya. There is a clear deficit for mushrooms not only in Kenya, but in international markets like the United Arab Emirates and Asia. Zoi Investment plans to be an instrumental part in providing mushrooms in Kenya to curb importation of mushrooms that denies the local people of Kenya access to employment opportunities.

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?
I watched my acceptance video in disbelief. It was surreal. I almost thought someone was playing a prank on me. Making it, out of 20,000 other African entrepreneurs, was a great honor and I could not stop thanking the Almighty God. I immediately called a few people who are close to my heart and shared the good news. I knew this was the first step of a victorious journey.

The most difficult part for me was coming up with a budget and cost estimates for Zoi Investment. With no prior experience in business planning, I depended a lot on my co-founder, Waithera Macharia, and the internet for help.

170515_CarolineMtongolo

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
One of the major challenges for Zoi Investment has been getting capital to acquire good substrate and grow quality mushrooms at a large scale. The capital offered by the Tony Elumelu Foundation will catapult Zoi Investment’s operations and put us on the right track.

What do you hope your business will achieve in the next few months?
I hope to acquire the skills and expertise to kick start Zoi Investment and generate revenues, develop business and social leadership skills, proper branding and business development skills and finally to expand my networks locally and even internationally.

Any words of encouragement to entrepreneurs like yourself?
As long as you have a vision, it will come to pass. Write it down, even though it tarries, it will surely come to pass. Commit it to God, prepare yourself and work hard, a window of opportunity will open up before you know it.

 

*To learn more and stay up to date, follow Zoi Investmet Limited on Twitter and Facebook; and Caroline on Twitter.
**special shout out to Averi Thomas-Moore for contributing immensely to the making of this interview

cofoundHER facts
Full name: Caroline Mtongolo
Country: Kenya
Education: BSc Chemistry, University of Nairobi
Sector: Food and agriculture
Business in one sentence: We help people, especially the modern woman, maintain a healthy weight and prevent lifestyle disease such as obesity by providing them with easy access to mushrooms.

_____________________________

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.

 

Byenda Nkwanda: Creating World Class African Fashion

Byenda Nkwanda is the founder and head designer of Golden Traib, a Zambian fashion brand redefining African fashion for women’s wear. Golden Traib creates world class high fashion using African fabric and caters for the modern day African woman who is ambitious, outgoing and fashion loving.

Young and ambitious, Byenda is reaching for world domination in the African fashion space and expects her business to be a force to be reckoned with in coming years.

Before, I was only a fashion designer. Now I am, and I’m still becoming, a business smart woman. With these two things combined, I think Africa has something to look forward to here. ~ Byenda Nkwanda

Tell us about your company
I own a fashion label called Golden Traib. The idea behind Golden Traib is to create high quality, world standard clothing from African material.

We want to lift the image of African fashion, specifically women’s fashion, and place it on the same ranks as global players. The message we want to send out is that we are Africa; we are not just a trend, we are here to stay.

Our brand will help create a fashion industry in Africa that can provide sustainable employment opportunities and also be an economic driving force.

BRAND LOGO illustration

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?
When I first heard I made it into the programme, I was dumbfounded. It felt like an illusion. It was one of those situations where you’ve eagerly hoped for something, but when it happens, you sit there thinking, “Who? Me? No way!” At the end of the day, when it sank in, I was just very grateful to God for such an opportunity.

The most difficult part about applying was the constant battle in my mind over whether I had a chance at being selected or not. I mean, the programme is running through the entire Africa. That for me was the hardest part, but there’s always something good in store when you overcome your fear.

160515_ByendaNkwanda

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
Besides funding, which a large number of entrepreneurs face, my number one business challenge is the internal running and proper operation of a successful business. I mean you can have all the capital in the world, but if you do not know how best to apply it to your business, then it is pointless.

That is one thing that this programme is concerned with. They could have just given us some money and left us to do whatever we pleased, but the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme is beyond the capital. They have taken me from where I was with my business and are slowly but surely, molding me and my business into a fortified powerhouse  that can stand strong and be a leader in fashion in Africa.

Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs like you?
Yes of course,. To the entrepreneurs out there, and the women especially, my advice to you is this: The greatest thing you can ever do for yourself is to never give up, even when things get tough, which they will, never lose sight of your vision because it is who you are. Focus on what you do, and always seek to learn more through every encounter.

*****************

Follow Byenda on Twitter and Instagram, and Golden Traib on Twitter and Facebook.

cofoundHER Facts
Full name: Byenda Nkwanda
Country: Zambia
Company: Golden Traib
Sector: Fashion
Business in one sentence: Golden Traib uses African fabric to create world class high fashion that caters for the modern day African woman who is ambitious, outgoing and fashion loving

_____________________________

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.

 

Lerato Motshwarakgole: Impacting Communities with Performance Art

Growing up, Lerato Motshwarakgole wanted to be so many things — a doctor, a lawyer and a scientist to mention a few. But one day, she realised she didn’t really want to be any of those, what she really wanted was to portray different occupations and lives in an artistic way. That realization was the first step for her into the creative world and performing arts.

A cultural activist and graduate of Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town, becoming an actress was not an obvious career path for Lerato who says she was painfully shy as a child.

For a long time the only people I spoke to were my parents and my sister. Acting somewhat cured me of that. Because I lived in my head for so long, I had found a way to channel my thoughts whilst ‘pretending’ I was someone else.** ~ Lerato Motshwarakgole.

Now an actress with acclaim in South Africa and her home country, Botswana, Lerato wants to make an impact by showing Africans that a career in creative and liberal arts is a viable occupation that can improve communities and change lives.

What does LM Consulting do and why did you start it?
LM Consulting is an education and training company that uses applied theatre practices to create a model and curriculum that can be implemented in schools throughout Africa.

I believe one of the major keys to solving Africa’s problems is to start with education — not only improving quantity by making it accessible to a larger number of people, but  also improving the quality. I find that throughout Africa, the quality of education gets compromised on.

Applied theatre practices, specifically Theatre in Education and Drama in Education, are such an important methodology in encouraging communities to collectively share their experiences and stories, and to engage in active dialogue that affects and effects our communities.

All over the world, this practice is used by a growing number of countries to weed out the increasing expulsion of marginalized people and ignored issues such as HIV/AIDS and abuse. Such initiatives must be, and indeed are undertaken by various countries around the world in order for them to have a true sense of the sociological impression of that country in relation to its people and its specific issues.

I’m hoping that LM Consulting will be a first step to the assimilation of the arts in the school curriculum and into people’s daily conversations in general.

150515_LeratoMotsh

How would LM Consulting change the world?
No one can really speak to that sort of thing, but ultimately my mission for all of this is to show people that they can think expansively about the arts and it all starts with education. The knowledge economy is driven by creativity and the arts. To create a truly innovative continent we need to hone in on encouraging the growth of creativity and liberal arts in our schools, starting as early as primary school level.

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?
I was happy! The road of entrepreneurship is not an easy one; now, the hard work begins. Making it into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program is part of that continuous journey for me. The purpose of life, I believe, is to contribute to making the world better. If you are not using your power, intelligence, influence, talent or business to solve a problem then don’t do it. Get up everyday to do the backbreaking work that draws you closer to your passion and purpose in life.

Some complained about the application process being long and challenging. I feel if you have a vision and a solid business plan, filling out the application becomes a labour of love and deep passion to share that plan. I applied with no expectations. I completely carried on with my life and pushing my dreams while waiting for the official announcement of successful applicants.

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
The whole idea of art and creativity being a novelty is something that is still foreign to some people. Every parent in the world dreams of their child being a doctor or a lawyer or a pilot, but they don’t lend the same respect and gravitas to their child being a painter or an actor or a sculptor.

I keep having to hit that wall of narrow mindedness everywhere I go. The mandate of my business plan is really to change that mindset so that in 10 to 20 years, we have created a generation that can use their arts training in all spheres of their lives and careers, and know the importance of investing in the arts.

What keeps you going as an entrepreneur?
Nothing motivates me more than when I meet parents who say my successful journey as an actress has motivated them to encourage their children to study Dramatic Arts. Gone are the days of undermining actors and creatives and their importance in society. It is now a viable economic investment as seen in countries like Nigeria where the acting industry is alive and booming. Let’s live expansively!

Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?
The biggest advice I can share, professionally and personally, is to learn how to respect people and nurture your relationships. The things you do for yourself are gone when you’re gone, but the things you do of others remain as your legacy and your reputation.

 

To find out more about LM Consulting and the entrepreneur behind it, follow Lerato on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
**Quote credit: Monsieur Polk.

cofoundHER Facts
Full name: Lerato Motshwarakgole
Company name: TM Consulting
Country: Botswana
Sector: Education
Business in one sentence: Education and Training Consultancy specializing in Applied Theatre techniques.

**************

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.

Lorna Okeng: Digitially Preserving African Heritage

Lorna Okeng is an adventure seeking, nature loving tech enthusiast who is passionate about using technology to address real world challenges. A former Google student ambassador and a girl child evangelist, Lorna Okeng is no stranger to winning — in 2014 she was one of the winners in the ITU Telecoms’ Young Innovators Competition.

She gets excited about finding new ways of exploiting existing technologies to maximize information accessibility and availability. We got to speak with her about her startup, TeleMuseum, and how it would change African culture and history by digitally preserving our heritage.

What would happen if we could virtually teleport 500 years back in time and see how the stories unfolded then and how things evolved? TeleMuseum will take you there. ~ Lorna Okeng

What does your company do and how would it change the world?
Imagine a virtual screening room, with infinite capacity, holding millions of unique cultural and historical content from our collective past, connecting us to our heritage and legend stories narrated from our very own elders.

That’s what TeleMuseum is. We help cultural heritage institutions re-imagine and preserve culture and history by digitizing very unique local content so that they can become significant digital tourism contributors to the region.

We are increasingly communicating and connecting virtually, yet our heritage institutions are physical. So, our fundamental mission as TeleMuseum is to digitally enhance the exchange of information and objects, especially relating to African culture and history.

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?
It was definitely exciting for us because making the list brings us closer to accomplishing our goals. Some of the questions were a bit intimidating, I must admit, but we put in our best, emphasizing our goals and specifically highlighting why the world, and more still Africa, needs TeleMuseum.

140515_LornaOkengAtim

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
The business challenge we keep meeting is how we will commercialize the product. Through mentoring and interacting with more and more people, we will narrow down to strategies that can sustain us.

With the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, we will have enough support to accomplish most of the goals we have in place including launching the platform and attracting pioneer users.

Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?
First things first, Believe 101% in your idea/startup, give it your best and trust that it will work. Then find one or two people who believe in what you are doing, work with them and somehow, everything else will fall in line.

cofoundHER Facts
Full name: Lorna Okeng Atim
Startup: TeleMuseum
Nationality: Ugandan
Sector: Virtual Tourism/Digital content creation
Solution in one sentence: We help cultural heritage institutions re-imagine and preserve culture and history by digitizing very unique local content so that they can become significant digital tourism contributors to the region.

Looking forward to exploring TeleMuseum when it launches. To find out more, follow Lorna Okeng on Twitter @LittleAtim

*****************

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.

Abisoye Habib: Unearthing Nigeria’s Agribusiness Potential

Everyone knows that food business is good business, yet, only a few entrepreneurs that we have met think of starting a company to address food related opportunities like production, packaging and food security. For some, changing the world means tackling more complex high tech problems, but what better way to transform a country than by disrupting something we do everyday…eat.

A view that is still prevalent in Nigeria is that agriculture is just a means of survival; it is not seen as a true business that can transform an entire country. ~ Abisoye Habib

Today, we interview one lady who plans to take on the food and agriculture industry in Nigeria by making packaged fruits and vegetables readily available for all.

What does your company do and how would it change the world?

We grow, process and package fresh fruits and vegetables for consumption within Nigeria and worldwide.

A view that is still prevalent in Nigeria is that agriculture is just a means of survival; it is not seen as a true business that can transform an entire country. So, our mission is to be a catalyst for food security, job creation and youth empowerment in Nigeria, and all over Africa.

We want to play a pivotal part in transforming what agribusiness should really be, by increasing food production, limiting our dependence on foreign imports, spurring job creation, and creating a new reality in our society of what positive changes agribusiness can bring about.

130515_AbisoyeHabib

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?

I wanted to jump out the window. lol 🙂 I was so excited, I was shaking! It felt great to see that this idea I’ve had in my head for so long is being validated by other people and it definitely gave me the extra boost of confidence to keep pressing forward.

The most difficult part about applying was trying to put all my thoughts down into a coherent plan that can be executed within my business environment. When you have a business idea in your head, you have so many thoughts swirling. Putting all those thoughts down into a format that someone else can clearly see the benefits of what you are trying to achieve can be very challenging.

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?

The number one business challenge we are facing right now is navigating the terrain. How can we locate resources and sift through all the noise and distraction that comes with running a business in Africa.

Thankfully, being part of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, we get assigned a mentor who is seasoned in the African business climate and brings a wealth of knowledge that will help me avoid pitfalls. With their help, in the coming year, I expect aggressive growth for my business.

Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?

Don’t be afraid to take that first step, no matter how little. Once you make that initial move, the fear melts away and is replaced by an adrenaline rush like no other. You can do this. And you will succeed.

********************************

We’ll be on the look out for packaged fruits and vegetables from Abisoye Habib’s company. To find out more about her, follow Abisoye on Twitter.

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.

Women of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Programme

Every day for the next few days, we will share our interview with 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are early stage entrepreneurs with businesses less than three years old who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

After the winners’ announcement on the 23rd of March 2015, and thanks to this official list, we were able to comb the internet (gotta love Google and social media), track down a few of the female finalists, and reach out to them for interviews.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together.  We’ll update this list below with all the interviews as they go live:

  1. Adiya Atuluku: How Muse Origins is Taking African Creativity to the World
  2. Precious Odimegwu: Inspiring the Best in Children
  3. Abisoye Habib: Unearthing Nigeria’s Agribusiness Potential
  4. Lorna Okeng: Digitally Preserving African Heritage
  5. Lerato Motshwarakgole: Impacting Communities with Performance Art
  6. Byenda Nkwanda: Creating World Class African Fashion
  7. Caroline Mtongolo: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle With Mushrooms
  8. Kossiwa Anifrani: Catering to the Lifestyle Needs of Pregnant Women
  9. Ehizele Ijeoma Joseph-Ebare: Making Healthcare Accessible for All
  10. Tracy Owamagbe and Omowunmi Akande: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle, One Smoothie at a Time
  11. Janine Roberts: Using Packaging Technology to Empower People
  12. Sharron McPherson: Saving the World, One Social Enterprise at a Time
  13. Farida Musa Halliru: Taking African Fashion Worldwide
  14. Eileen Ambasa: Developing Solutions to Combat Cyber Crime
  15. Oduwa Agboneni: Bringing Professionalism to Nigeria’s Auto Care Industry
  16. Tosin Lawson: Promoting African Designs in Everyday Lifestyle
  17. Eleojo Peters: On a Mission to Feed the World
  18. Tania Attiba: Producing Natural Fruit Juices for a Healthy Lifestyle
  19. Mavis Nduchwa: Empowering Communities with Agriculture
  20. Madonna Kendona-Sowah: Creating High quality clothing with Ghanaian Textiles
  21. Kofoworola Oyeleye: Teaching Children Native Nigerian Culture

Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER. Know any other women who made the list? Please send their details via email to cofoundher@gmail.com.

**This series is an independent project by cofoundHER. We were not commissioned or influenced by any organisation to do this.

About The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP)

In December 2014, the Tony Elumelu Foundation announced an initiative, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), with the ambitious goal is to create 10,000 businesses that can generate one million new jobs and contribute at least $10 billion in annual revenues to the Africa economy. Applications for the first batch of 1,000 beneficiaries ran from the 1st of January 2015 till the 1st of March and when applications closed, it was reported that over 20,000 entrepreneurs from 52 countries applied!

On the 23rd of March, after deliberations from a carefully chosen selection committee (consisting of seasoned entrepreneurs such as ) the winning 1,000 were announced. The programme has designed 7 pillars to address the essential needs to ensure success for an African entrepreneur: Mentoring, Startup Enterprise Toolkit, Resources, Bootcamp, Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum, Seed Capital Funding and Alumni Network. 

8-TEEP-FACT-7pillars 11018613_951966864816490_8977551409968785111_n